Competition can, in theory, increase quality. With plenty of options for the consumer, it becomes important for those responsible for the various choices to do it better than their peers.
In sports journalism, competition also can decrease quality, with the desire to be first overpowering the desire to be right and, consequently, increasing the chances that a report will be wrong.
We’ve seen it on multiple occasions in the past week. With dozens or reporters swarming around the various coaching vacancies, media companies have been trying to be on the cutting edge. Even if, ultimately, the cutting edge is being used to scrape dried egg from faces.
It started with the breathless reports linking Andy Reid to Arizona. He will interview on Thursday! No, he will interview on Wednesday! No, he will interview on Thursday! Either way, one source with knowledge of the situation says there’s a 95-percent certainty Reid will be the Cardinals’ next coach!
While ESPN’s Adam Schefter may never live down that 95-percent assessment (in the same way we’ll never live down the “Terry Bradshaw may be dead” gaffe from six or so years ago), Schefter has a semi-plausible explanation. He never reported the deal was 95-percent done. He only reported that a source close to the situation believed it.
Still, it doesn’t matter. ESPN tattooed the 95-percent thing onto its crawl, and the 95-percent assessment became burned into the minds of every interested NFL fan.
Indeed, we had a plausible excuse for the Bradshaw thing, too. We were merely passing along reports from Shreveport regarding Bradshaw’s possible demise. But it stuck to us, and Reid-to-Arizona will stick to Schefter, and that’s just the way things work sometimes.
Now that the Browns didn’t hire Oregon coach Chip Kelly, those who joined the Friday night feeding frenzy (which, as best we can tell, was sparked by the league’s in-house media company) that a deal between Cleveland and Kelly was close, folks will be stuck with that one, too. And while the plausible excuse being circulated by those who reported it is that a deal was indeed close before it all fell apart, it won’t matter.
Making it matter even less is the fact that a source close to the situation tells PFT that the reports of a deal between the Browns and Kelly being close were “totally false.” The initial report, we’re told, surfaced during the early stages of the meeting between the Browns and Kelly, and the Browns regarded the account as “totally fabricated.”
With five coaching jobs still open along with five G.M. positions, it’s important to be leery of any reports of deals being “close.” And it would be wise for the various media companies chasing these stories to refrain from characterizing a deal as “close,” especially since the folks leaking that information may have a motivation unrelated to giving accurate, trustworthy data to a reporter.